We have all heard the verse from the Bible: “Blessed are the peace-makers for they shall inherit the earth.” That sounds like quite a rewarding, honorable mission. So peace is a desirable and good quality. But what kind of peace is it that offers such a reward?
Inner peace is a home grown commodity; beginning with the seeds of loving ourselves as babies then as children. Add the nourishment of loving parents; give the sunshine of growth from personal experiences, life lessons and a love for our Creator/Spirit/God as well as our fellow man, and our own peace will hopefully grow. Add years of love and affirmation from our family, friends, teachers and spouses and we may see ourselves in an even better light and truly appreciate the gifts we do have.
Inner peace is something mystics, wise men, and philosophers have sought for many centuries. Inner peace gives us an open mind to gladly learn from a brilliant teacher or a simple, sweet child. Our inner peace gives us courage to admit when we are wrong without having our internal support system disintegrate before or after we admit our errors.
But all too often somewhere along the way, some of us lose that sense of self worth. That point when “I did good!” becomes, “I can’t do anything right!” This metamorphosis can happen from any number of tragic life events or changes that can grip our confidence in its talons and squeeze the life out of it.
Christians, Alcoholics Anonymous and other healing groups often quote The Prayer of Serenity: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change; courage to change the things I can change; and the wisdom to know the difference.” Interestingly enough when you look up serenity, the first three definitions are: calmness, hush and peace.
So the first part of the Prayer of Serenity is actually a prayer for inner peace. Christians believe God is the inspiration for that peace, while other religions attribute inner wellness to studying, the Creator, or Great Spirit or some other spiritual leader. In addition to these sources of strength I also believe peace can come from knowing ourselves, with an honest appraisal of out shortcomings and our successes and acceptance of both for what they are: parts of us.
But when we proceed to the second part of the prayer, courage is also needed to change the things that need changing. Change, whether gained by taking a stand or whether by working at and studying wisdom is often a challenging though desirable education in itself.
To take a stand against being bullied, controlled, or any kind of abuse is actually part of the process of attaining peace. “How?” you may ask. Because you have to decide that you are worthy of peace. You have to crawl up out of the sucking, mucky bog of self degradation that we get ourselves into when we believe that everyone is more deserving, better, smarter, more anything than we are. Yes there will always be someone better than us at something or other but it shouldn’t make us think less of ourselves! If it does then we are getting “bogged” down!
But to be able to stand on our own two feet and hold our own convictions as valid and true, we have to experience life and learn what it has to teach us. We have to allow ourselves to make mistakes. We need to learn not to berate ourselves over how “stupid” or how “careless” we were. Everyone makes mistakes, everyone has different ways of looking at them though.
Recently for several days I was bashing myself over something I said that I was afraid had hurt someone’s feelings. While receiving advice from another friend on how to handle the situation, she gave me two quotes of advice to think about. “The less said the sooner mended.” Sure apologize if you’re sure that you hurt someone; but there is no need to go into a long discourse on what a rotten person you are. Just give a sincere apology and offer to do what you can to make amends.
The other quote she gave me was: “No one died!” This puts things in perspective. Don’t go on and on bashing yourself. Ask yourself: Are your mistakes life threatening? Did your actions or words alter your relationship(s) permanently? Did your action or words truly hurt someone?”
I always thought that by tormenting myself over mistakes I would better learn not to do them again. Wrong!! I produced more anxiety. I do know that by bashing myself after a mistake, I made it easier to allow someone else to bash me too. This is also a matter of giving someone else your power over yourself. (I’ll address that in another blog.)
Through all of this I am not negating or making light of what I have been taught from my Christian training. How can we truly love or trust someone, until we can love and trust ourselves at least to some degree? When we can truly trust our whole “package” to ourselves, to God, our spiritual guide or even the one we love then we are on the path to true inner peace and love.
Do we give away things that are precious to us without first realizing how valuable it is to us first? We need to know ourselves well before we fling ourselves into the arms or life of someone who may not treasure our lives as much as we hopefully do.
But all of this growth takes time. Trees grow over many years and usually survive many storms, droughts, insects, or poor growth conditions. The ones who are the biggest and strongest are the ones who survived.
Was I a peacemaker during the latter and stormier years of my marriage? I often kept the peace by not having an opinion about many decisions because I felt ignorant and inexperienced about most things. I often acquiesced rather than have a big argument or a long discussion that would not end until I agreed. After all my husband really had a very high IQ and was “brilliant.” What opinion could I have to offer against such intelligence? (Well it turns out that I am no slouch in the intelligence department. How did I forget what I knew at one time earlier in my life?)
But was I really a peacemaker, in the truest sense of the word? I carefully chose the battles I fought so as not to add to the strife of our home. Yes, I yelled and cried when I finally blew my top and had had all of the anger and hurt I could handle! Sure there were times that I gave in; decided I didn’t have an opinion; chose the path of least resistance; chose not to make a big fuss over something so unimportant; or apologized profusely for my “mistakes, wrong doings, or failings,” in order to bring peace back into our home. But was this real peace?
What is your definition of peace? How do you attain that peace? How does it affect your attitude about life?